The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1993Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference – 11 June 1993

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the 1993 Welsh Conservative Party Conference, held on 11th June 1993.


I had hoped to be here a little earlier to join you for lunch and to have the opportunity of meeting a number of you, but I was a little delayed by the weather as well. I’m very sorry about that, but I’m much more concerned about the people who’ve suffered as a result of the weather. They’ve suffered a great deal more than inconvenience, the need for evacuation, many people whose homes have been damaged in the floods on the North coast. I’m delighted that Wyn has already been there and delighted that John and Wyn will be returning later on today. I’ve asked them to give me the fullest possible report of the damage that has been caused. But I would like to express my sympathy to everyone who has faced these particular difficulties over the last few hours and also my congratulations to the emergency services. They’ve acted swiftly, they’ve acted efficiently and I believe they deserve our thanks for everything that they’ve done.

Before I turn to domestic matters, I just want to say a word or two about something happening in the last few hours in Bosnia. Many of you will know, all of you will know, for many months now British troops have been in Bosnia helping and protecting convoys in a most remarkable way. As a result of the work of those troops in Bosnia, many thousands of people are alive who otherwise would not have survived the last winter. It has been a superb performance by the British troops who’ve been there.

Yesterday, as you know, they were involved in some incidents when a convoy they were supporting was attacked. The British troops, rightly in my view, responded in self-defence and, let me make it absolutely clear, our commander on the spot has complete authority to take any decisions he considers necessary to protect the safety of our troops. They’re there in Bosnia for humanitarian reasons and there are two criteria governing their presence there – can they carry out their mandate and can they carry out their mandate without unacceptable risk?

The recent incidents we’ve seen may, may be relatively isolated, but I have to say to you that there is now increasing evidence of widespread deterioration on the ground. We have contingency measures in hand to protect our troops in Bosnia and to ensure their reinforcement if that should prove to be necessary. Yesterday, we announced further measures to supplement them. There have been long-standing measures, of course, the Ark Royal lying offshore and with cranes on that particular ship. There will be more reinforcements as necessary. And I wish just to give you this assurance today we will not take any unacceptable risks with the lives of our troops in Bosnia.

Madam Chairman, it’s always fun to be back in Wales. I dare say that sounds to you like an all-purpose politician’s general issue compliment. I dare say it does, but it isn’t. I just think that Wales is wall-to-wall knock-down beautiful and every time I come here I find that opinion reconfirmed. From the southern approaches to the dark mountains, wherever you go there’s something very special and very beautiful to see and I’m delighted to be back here again today.

And let me just say a quick word about Welsh secretaries of state. David Hunt succeeded by John Redwood. Superlative performance succeeded by superlative promise. Achievements for Wales to be followed by further achievement for Wales. John Redwood is here to fight the corner for the principality and I can tell you from my experience of him in Government he will fight it very hard, very often and very fiercely. You will have a very good champion.

It’s possible, communications being what they are, that you may not have heard that the Cabinet changes involved the odd scratch. This move in Wales was oil-sweet and brilliant and, when people see how successful it is, I shall be happy to take all the credit for it. Change of Secretary of State. But Wales is used to change, not just changes of secretaries of state, but change on a much wider canvas than that. If you look down the last decade or so of the history of Wales, it is a story of change, the story of a modern country, a growing country, a winning Wales steadily building itself up and today leading the United Kingdom out of recession.

There was a time when you could have pushed Wales to one side, as though it was just there on the side of England, but you certainly can’t do that any longer and no one would wish it. Since 1979, on average, every year there’s been 1,500 new businesses a year, 1,000 new inward investment projects – and not tiny ones, great companies like Toyota, Bosch, Sony, all coming here to establish themselves in Wales not just temporarily, but permanently. Over 800 new manufacturing plants and, the most latest example of course, Amcor’s 26 million pounds.

They could have gone anywhere, they could have gone anywhere in the European Community and established themselves to do future business. But they came here. They choose of their volition to come here and establish themselves in Wales and they did so I believe for two overwhelming reasons. Firstly, because of the skills that are available in Wales and the attractive quality of life that they can find here. And, secondly, because of those Conservatives that made it attractive for overseas investment to come to the United Kingdom rather than other countries in the European Community. That combination – Welsh skills, Welsh quality of life and Conservative polices – has been a formidable combination for the prosperity of Wales in the last decade.

And Wales has benefited, as well as the rest of the United Kingdom, from that. Of course it hasn’t always been apparent to everyone. Not everyone has always taken the long-term view of what needed to be done. I wonder, I wonder if you remember, just about 10 years ago, the great Tory crime of closing down the steelworks of Shotten. Mighty steelworks. Steelworks with a great history for which there was great affection, understandably. But a steelworks with no more work. A steelworks that it was said, what was the phrase that was used – “a steelworks and jobs cynically thrown on to the scrapheap” – that was the expression that was used. That’s what Labour said. They felt we should have burned money at its altars, as the world market for steel went down, that we should have carried it through the streets in procession like the embalmed corpse of a Mediterranean saint. They have a lot of primitive religion at the heart of the Labour Party.

But, what has happened? What has happened to those people they said would never work again after the Shotten steelworks closed down? What actually happened has been dramatic and it shows the qualities and the opportunities that exist in Wales. What has happened is that a realistic Shotten has come through, it’s come alive, it competes and it lives on its own energies – a living competitor, not a tax-eating shrine. That is what has happened over the past decade. And it means the people who worked there had jobs with a future, not jobs that only had a past and were dependent day to day upon subsidy and the hope that something would turn up in the future.

The fact is that Labour just took the short-term option. Here was an opportunity to kick the Government with a difficult decision and of course they were not prepared to take the long-term view. Then as now, short-term opportunism dominated their attitudes. But if we had listened to them then, what today would be the position of those working in the steelworks at Shotten? They would still be living in daily fear of their jobs. They would still be on yearly subsidies. They would have no security and no future. And if that attitude had been spread right the way across Wales, we would not have seen the quantum leap in opportunity and living standards that has stretched right across the principality over the last decade.

Have they changed? Our opponents? Have they, hell. Cardiff Bay barrage. Now you’ve had the Labour resistance to the Cardiff Bay barrage. Here is a great development, a development that will do immense good for the future and so it must, by some Labour MPs, it must be stopped. A remarkable development opposed by unremarkable, bone-headed socialism. A small festival of negativity. What an attitude that is! What is it they actually say to the people of Cardiff? What is they’re saying, the opponents of this great project? They’re saying, we can’t have these jobs and these buildings mucking up Cardiff just when the council’s got everything right. That’s what they’re saying. If they’d been around on the day of creation they’d have demanded an adjournment.

And it’s no good the leadership walking on the other side of the road and washing their hands of it. They have done nothing, nothing to restrain these Labour MPs holding back this moment and I think I can understand why. Up there in Scotland where the Labour leadership lives, they can’t see the importance of investment here in Wales; but we can. Here, here in the principality and may it always be a principality, people are proud of being Welsh and they’re right to be proud of it. Few political ideas have been worse served by politicians in this century than the idea of nationalism. I’m unapologetic about it. I am a nationalist, a British nationalist. Any leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party could be no other.

Disraeli used to say that our party was a national party or it was nothing and, to understand what it means to be a Conservative, you must first understand what it means to be a nationalist. A true nationalist doesn’t need to prove himself by exaggerated histrionics, doesn’t need to promote himself by wrapping himself in a flag and offering a cheap imitation of what nationalism really means. Those people are offering symbols, they’re not substance. Put them aside and ignore them. Nations are made up of people; the true nationalist, the true nationalist wants those people to live at ease with themselves, confident, secure, able to reach out themselves, to reach and touch and achieve their own individual ambitions. His isn’t a sectional interest. He wants to build a society where every single citizen, wherever they may have started from, rejoices in their own common birthright, in their own country that they love.

And to do that, we must understand what it is that people actually want, what their ambitions are, what their hopes are for themselves and their families. They have their place, no doubt, but go out into the housing estates of Cardiff or Peterborough, or Birmingham, or Leeds and Glasgow. Go into the living room of the three-bedroom semi-detached house and ask them, what do you want? What sort of country do you want to live in and see built up? It is the answer to those questions that determines where the heartbeat of Britain lies and what it is that people want.

I will tell you what the answer is I believe you will consistently get, whether in Wales or Scotland or any of the regions of England. First and foremost, they want jobs that allow men and women to provide for themselves and their families. Jobs that give them independence and self-respect. Secondly, they want a decent home and the opportunity to own that decent home as 7% of people do in the principality. Thirdly, they want to be confident that their children have access to a good school, that the whole family will have access to good medical care if and when they need it and that a structure exists to provide them with financial security in old age, in hardship or in the advent of ill health. And it’s when those fundamental securities that are rooted deep in the marrow of the instincts of the British, it is when those fundamental securities seem uprooted that most people feel most threatened. And that, right the way across Europe, from one and to the other, has what has happened in recent years.

And yet we Conservatives, we Conservatives care for those fundamental securities above all else, so we have a task on hand. We must convey that message that we understand and care about those fundamental matters right back to the British people in every part of the United Kingdom. Nothing’s more important, nothing is more pressing, so let me just pass this message to everyone who wishes the Conservative Party well. No diversions, no squabbles, let’s get on with that job of passing back that message and then we will have the self-confident expanding country that we all want to see.

But our people are ambitious. They want a good deal more than what I’ve just set out in the last few minutes and they’re right to do that. They want with every justification, in my view, to feel safe at home and safe on the street. And they want to feel that the nation to which they belong can hold up its head in the world, play its part in the world and be a force in the world. I believe those are the instincts and the ambitions of the people who elected us and of millions of others who did not vote for us at the last occasion but share those same basic, patriotic instincts. We have no particular control over patriotism. It stretches across all parties, and I freely, I freely acknowledge that.

But those are the ambitions of the people who did elect us. And they are also the ambitions that we have as a Party for the people of this country of all parties. And it is our task in Government to find ways of enabling those ambitions to be met. So how do we do it? If the 1980s taught us nothing else, and in fact it taught us a great deal, it was a very remarkable decade. But if it had taught us nothing else, it did teach us one vital lesson. You cannot spend what you haven’t earned. There’s not the slightest point in arguing about spending priorities until you have first addressed the question of how you pay for whatever it is that you want. And so all social policy must begin with economic policy. And all economic policy must begin with sound money. Our commitment as a Party instinctively, an instinctive commitment, our commitment to sound money, to keeping inflation down isn’t for us an abstraction, a by-way on the political high road. It is the absolutely essential bedrock upon which our economic policy and therefore everything else must depend.

The last two years have been cruelly difficult, I know, for many people. We came from a boom in the late 1980s and into a recession. The boom spiralled above anything we had imagined and the recession lasted longer and was deeper than we anticipated. So it’s been a long period, a painful period, but as we emerge from that recession and as we lift our eyes and look beyond our own shore, we see that our problems are not just in this country. As we emerge from recession, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal. Japan, even the United States all have to one degree or another, and in some cases very seriously, economic difficulties. And I have to say, Madam Chairman, some of their leaders – shock, horror! – are even said to be unpopular.

There’s a novelty for a politician. We here are out of recession. Inflation is now at under one and a half per cent. Interest rates are at 6%. The exchange rate is extremely competitive. Our exports are growing and our business opportunities are ahead. Now is the time to lift our prospects, lift our hearts and take the opportunities that lie immediately in front of us. And if we’re to take them, we have to do so in partnership with business, for it is private enterprise that we Conservatives look to generate the growth we want to see. It cannot be done in Whitehall by politicians and it cannot be done in Whitehall by bureaucrats. So let’s be quite clear about that. It’s not we politicians who create jobs. It is successful businesses providing what people are prepared to purchase that actually provide jobs in this country.

Key decisions aren’t taken by a few politicians in Whitehall, They’re taken every single day by millions of individual people, deciding firstly that they’ll spend their money and secondly in deciding on which goods and which services they’re prepared to buy. Now, our relationship as a Government is changing with business. And it is right in my view that it should change. If we look back with that 20/20 vision that we can all have with hindsight and we’ve seen a bit of that from time to time, if we look back with 20/20 vision at the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think it is clear in retrospect that governments were too keen to tell business what to do, to make their decisions for them, to decide where they should invest and how. To pick the right winners in Whitehall rather than let them win in the marketplace. We learnt it didn’t work.

And then in the 1980s, I think as we look back in the 1980s, it is clear in retrospect that perhaps we were just a touch too laissez-faire on some occasions. Too keen to tell businesses to go out entirely on their own, it was cold bath time with a vengeance. And sometimes that may have left some of our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. We have learned, too, from that, particularly building on the remarkable growth that business achieved n that bracing climate. And so in the 1990s we’re embarking on an evolution of our partnership with business. Business, as in the ‘80s, must make its own decisions and exercise its own skills. Only they can do that.

But we in Government, perhaps should take every opportunity to smooth the way for our businesses to build the success and the prosperity we wish them to achieve. And there’s much we can do to achieve this, to set on course the right economic environment, a consistent low level of inflation and all the economic things that follow that. To make the supply-side changes and to push the jargon aside. To make sure we have the right education system producing the right youngsters with the right skills and I’ll turn back to that a little later. To make sure that our training systems are the right training systems to produce the right skills for the 1990s and the new century. To complete those elements of trade union reform still left undone but now almost wholly completed, finally – to put them in place.

For the Government to use its political muscle for British contracts abroad. When our ministers go abroad, I want them, whenever they can, to take trade missions with them. Trade missions to fight to sell British goods abroad and to attract investment from abroad into this haven of European investment as M Delors so kindly put it for us. Not all his comments are always so helpful. Ministers in the Welsh Office have led the way in taking trade missions abroad and you have seen the results here. And I know the plans that John and Wyn and William have for the future. They will be in Wales most of the time, indeed most of the time and may occasionally visit the House of Commons in between.

They will be taking the Welsh case abroad and bringing foreign investment to Wales. And then we must use our political muscle to lobby politically for our great British companies and we must make sure that the changing attitude in our foreign representation at embassies and elsewhere continues. I want our embassies to be as concerned about trade as they are about cocktail parties and diplomacy.

And we must make sure that we don’t put our British firms at a competitive disadvantage. That is why there have been the very remarkable changes in export credit cover, both the breadth of it and also the cost of it, over recent months so British firms can compete fairly with their European and other competitors. The growth in export promotion services and other ideas that are coming through at present. And then of course there’s the Government’s role to provide the right infrastructure for business. This isn’t just a question of huge taxation and huge Government expenditure. That has its part but we are unlikely to deliver the infrastructure that business would truly like simply through taxation on companies and on individuals.

And so we’re going back to our basic instincts. Who built the great canals and many of the railways in the first place? It was the private sector. There’s nothing novel about that, it’s just a post-war phenomenon that believes it can only be built by money compulsorily extracted from your pocket and recycled in Whitehall and then spent as the men in Whitehall think best. And what we’re doing is throwing away the old rules so that private finance and joint finance can go out and help the Government build the infrastructure that this country and British business needs. But where old rules, old Treasury rules – they were, you will I know be shocked to hear restrictive rules. I spoke to a very distinguished civil servant who had drawn up these rules that prevented so much private finance. And I said to him, probing delicately, “Do you think these rules are quite right?” “Well,” he said, “I think they’re barmy.” Well, he was right, they were barmy and they’re now defunct.

And then in the interest of this growing business and jobs and prosperity, we need to oppose unnecessary social costs upon our great and small companies in this country. Whenever anyone mentions the Social Charter, you can see a socialist quiver. “Social Charter sounds good, we better have a slice of that.” But they don’t read what it is. Sounds very amiable The Social Charter is a job destruction programme for the European Community, European employers get extra costs, their goods become less competitive and the United States, the Pacific Basin and Japan get the orders and get the jobs. The only right that workers get out of it is the right to be out of work while Brussels politicians decide that they will provide extra socialist systems.

That’s not a bargain – that’s a slow acting poison for prosperity in this country and right the way across Europe. And I have to say to you I’ve always been a strong supporter of our place in Europe because that is where 60% of our trade goes. No point in wrapping ourselves in [indistinct] and pretending it isn’t all there. But we need influence there and if ever there was an indication of why we needed influence, it is their wish to impose these extra costs right the way across the community. Because they look inward only; they do not realise that the whole of Europe must compete with the United States, with Japan and with the Pacific Basin. And until that time they recognise that, acknowledge that and act upon that, we will export our prosperity and we will give them the jobs that ought to be here in Europe. And for those of them who say, “Well, you’re not whole-hearted,” whenever you bump into a liberal, “Well, you’re not whole-hearted about Europe.” That’s what they say. “You don’t want to swallow everything the Commission propose.” Too true, I don’t. It’s a pity that they do. I would just suggest one thing you say to our liberal friends when they say that to you. “The good European fights for the right Europe” and that is what we’re doing.

Of course I don’t expect the Labour Party to understand that. Mr Smith in auto reflex action regards it as demeaning for Britain to proclaim our lower costs. What a fatuous comment! Can you imagine selling your house – “I’m not going to project this nice low cost, it’s very expensive” you tell the purchaser. Of course we project our lower costs. We want people to come here. I want them to be in work. That’s why we project our lower costs. That’s why we have a low tax structure. That’s why we’ve been deregulating. That’s why we’ve had so much inward investment over the last decade that we wouldn’t have had if John Smith’s philosophy had been in charge.

But if pronouncing that lower costs is what we’re after is a bad thing, it does raise an interesting question. What would he like? Higher costs? Higher costs – less jobs? Less opposition? What a brainless policy for this country, No wonder he thought that higher taxes would win them the last General Election. And in order to emphasise his non-point, he talks about a sweatshop economy and then he goes on, he goes on to demand a high-tech, high investment economy. What insight. Why did I never think of that? We all want that. The question is not whether we want a high-tech, high investment economy. Every sensible person wants that. The question is how we get that economy and keep it in the future, and we won’t get it if we pile on taxes and we pile on social costs and that is the message you must take to every doorstep in the land.

Success for us these days – we don’t have a great empire, a market waiting there automatically willing to snap up anything we produce. It’s a different world now. Our businessmen have to go out there and they have to fight like hell in a difficult environment for their sales. It isn’t as once it was. Success doesn’t come at the imperial clicking of a British finger. We’re not beggars in the world but we’re not altogether choosers either. We have to go out there and fight for our prosperity and fight for our future. And if you look at what’s happening on your own back door, solid jobs, good jobs, permanent jobs, they’re coming to Wales and thank God for it. And the things that I’ve described as happening in Wales are happening elsewhere. The investment, the incoming companies, the new competitiveness: these are the steady-built walls of recovery and security for this decade and for the new millennium. That is the long term policy that is right for this country and from which this Party will never deviate.

And let me say this to you, Madam Chairman. If in the decade of Conservative governments still to come, if we build everywhere as we have built in Wales, with jobs, with productivity and with exports in mind, we shall build to last. And all the questions that need addressing about this country are long term questions and so the answers need to be long term answers. And one of those answers, I believe, is that new arm-in-arm partnership, Government and business using their own skills together, working together for the prosperity of Britain.

Madam Chairman, one thing business knows is that we have no choice but to control public spending and restrain taxes. And when I say that I know what will happen when I say that, know that the Labour Party will immediately jump around. Mr Gordon Brown will issue a press release. He’ll tell us that this proves that all his scare stories were right. He’ll undoubtedly demand a parliamentary statement. He will tell us things are terrible and they’re getting worse. You know, I can’t think why, but it reminds me of a toy that my son had when he was very small, many years ago; it was a small, a small Action Man toy that was on a little string. And when you pulled the string, this little Action Man uttered a few predictable sentences. I don’t actually recall whether he asked for a parliamentary statement or not but, thankfully, I do recall that when the string broke he went silent, so all is not lost.

So, we must control public spending and restrain taxes. That’s not just a populist cry for lower taxes. We know we must restrain public expenditure, not because we’re opposed to public expenditure per se, but because we’re bound by the laws of arithmetic. You can’t spend what you’re not prepared to finance from either taxes or borrowing. And I hope there is no doubt in anyone’s mind we’re not prepared to see an ever-increasing tax burden. And nor are we prepared to mortgage our future by unrestrained borrowing. So, we have to ensure that expenditure is properly disciplined.

At present, we have a very large deficit, much larger than we would wish it to be at around 50 billion. And people say, “how”? Tory deficit, the opponents of our party call it. How has it happened, we had a surplus three or four years ago? Yes, we did. We had a surplus on the back of an unsustainable boom with all the tax revenues that helped put our finances into surplus. But the flip side of boom is recession and the flip side of surplus is deficit and we must now rid ourselves of the deficit. Seventy per cent, or thereabouts, one can never be entirely precise about the figures, but as close as we can get, around 70% of the deficit is cyclical. By that I mean, stripping away the jargon, it is the effect of recession the fact that we have a tower tax revenue – fewer people in work, less taxes, fewer spending, less VAT, fewer house sales, less stamp duty. And of course higher public expenditure to protect people in difficulty. And therefore a gap opens up between income and expenditure that we have to borrow in the short term during the recession. That is the effect of recession – lower tax revenue, higher social expenditure and a gap between income and expenditure.

That will, over time, reverse itself, but there are other more fundamental reasons for the deficit as well. There are demographic changes, more thankfully as a result of the work done by the Health Service, not least by Norman Fowler who was Secretary of State for many years in that crucially difficult job. Our Health Service is better than ever it has been before.

And I may say, those people who said otherwise at the Monmouth by-election learned different at the General Election. But there are demographic changes. Because of the changing diet and the changing healthcare that’s available, more people live much longer. More of our elderly can expect to live longer and more fruitful lives in retirement and that is very expensive. It adds to costs, costs willingly met, but costs that must be met. There are more students. We want more of our young people to go on into further education and, at an astonishing rate, that is what they’re now doing. There are more demands we wish to meet – the healthcare that was never there a few years ago is perhaps the most obvious example of that. And all that’s expensive, but these are matters we wish to meet.

[small section of speech missing]

Madam Chairman, over the last few months, there has been something of a rumpus about education. We have been very heavily abused from many sides on the subject of testing, cardboard images have been set up. On one side there are the professionals, dedicated teachers serving the nation and, on the other side in this cardboard image, an intruding old Government interfering, bossy and setting irrelevant tests to interfere with the peaceful life our children have at schools. And our critics, including the Labour leader, are devoted to that cardboard image. I can’t think why he had such an affinity for cardboard images. But what he doesn’t have and what our critics don’t have, is a criticism of the performance of much of our education system. And let me be blunt, we should have a criticism of the performance of much of our education system because the reality is, I am sad to tell you, that one in four of our children leave secondary education and can’t read properly, can’t write properly and are not competent in grammar. And what are they going to do? They can’t all be Prime Minister. I’d better tell the press, that was a joke. But I bet it turns up in more columns than you’ve had hot dinners this year.

But that education outcome, that fails our children. Many of our teachers are excellent and I have a great admiration for them, but they aren’t all excellent. There’s a choking [indistinct] of educationalists, a theory that despises grammar, looks down on vocabulary and derides the well-stocked mind. And it’s not new: perhaps we should have faced up to it years ago. But there is in modern teaching, and in my view there has been for nearly 30 years, a trade unionism of the mind, a willingness to accept low performance far too readily. And that thinking’s decreed learning – learning’s reactionary! What you go in the classroom for is to have some haphazard discovery. Well, I don’t mind my children having some haphazard discovery, but I really send them to school to learn so that when they leave school they’re equipped for a tough competitive world that will lie ahead of them. And far too much well-meaning, theorising nonsense is poked at our children in school. And I will not mince my words – I think that is a betrayal of our children’s prospects in schools and no government could or should stand aside from it.

I’ll never forget, I’ll never forget a male teacher in a TV documentary and he was holding up a page of paper and it had blots and words and every fifth letter was spelt the wrong way round. “That’s pretty good,” he said. “That boy’s trying to tell us something.” Too true, he was. He was trying to tell us, poor lad, that he hadn’t been well taught, that he’d been let down by his school, that he was another victim of theorising educationalists in a mission for search and destroy, he was trying to tell us that his future would be less adequate than it would have been if he’d really been taught to read and write and add up and emerge from school with good qualities and with good manners.

So whatever our problems in promoting John Patten’s brave policies – and they are the Government’s policies – whatever the problems in promoting John’s brave policies. When you’re criticised for it, remember that teacher, monstrously complacent, proud and happy with self evident failure. What I want for our children in our schools is self-evident success, for that is what is in their interest and in this nation’s interest. We may get the worst of the propaganda war in education, but the Government’s right about education. We are right to have tests to find out what our children learn and what they do not learn. And we are right to expect schools to let parents know how well their children are doing at school, for they have the primary responsibility for them.

So, let us hope we soon get out of this impasse and back to a sensible approach, working as we wish to with the very best of the education profession. That is our aim and I think that is our responsibility and their responsibility in the interest of the children who are our joint charges as they go through school. And I hope the unions will give up their opposition, that they apparently at the moment want the Government to congratulate inadequacy and garland mediocrity. Well, we can’t do it and we won’t. All John Patten and I want to know – and it is not to ask a great deal – all we want to know, quite dispassionately, is what works and what doesn’t and, when we have that information, we can out it right in the interests of our children, in our schools. We may get things wrong and move on, but those children have only one chance of education at school. And between us, the Government, the trade unions and the teachers, must not let them down.

I know we’ve been pushing against a great settled glacier of trade unionist conformist mind, an attitude that despises evidence about educational problems, the way it despises most evidence and most knowledge. Knowledge, they seem to think, is bourgeois. Well, Madam Chairman, I define the task and I tell you, big and menacing as it is, we will not give up on this issue. As they used to say on the Left, the struggle continues and for us it will in the interests of our children.

Madam Chairman, our party’s policies address directly the problems that matter to everyday lives. Always have done. That’s why our party has won and won and won again, because our instincts flow from the innermost instincts of the majority of the British people. We are there in Government to help people meet their ambitions. It has been a difficult year. But that’s yesterday; it’s gone. We’ve learned from that and we’ve moved on. We’re working for what we believe in – free market and private enterprise. Low income tax and private choice. Control of inflation so that never again do we go in supermarkets to peel off the sticker and find the price that was there yesterday before a new price was put on top of it. Modern trades unions. Legislation almost completed, a revolution in trade unionism over the last decade. Good public services. Good public services are not the prerogative of the Left. We say that where services need to be provided by the public, they should be, that they should be efficient in precisely the same way that we would demand efficiency as if they were in the private sector. We want to ensure we maintain a modern, growing Health Service, available irrespective of need to people, irrespective of resources to people whenever they may need it. We want ever higher standards in schools. We want wider personal ownership. We want the private sector to expand, through privatisation where necessary, as far as it credibly can. We want security at home and we want security abroad. And we want to say “no” to something. No to tampering with our constitution. No to breaking up the United Kingdom. And no to proportional representation. PR, that sly deception that delivers governments into the hands of tiny and sometimes extreme political parties, is not a servant of democracy but its very enemy. Madam Chairman, those are the Tory truths, they’re truths that last, they’re truths we care about, they’re truths we’ll fight for and they’re truths that we’ll win with.